Camping is a time to escape. Do things that you do not usually get to do and indulge in hobbies you can't do when you are home; fishing, hiking, hunting, and shooting. These are the only reason many of us pack up our cars and head out into the unrelenting elements for days or weeks at a time. The last thing we want to happen is to get to the campgrounds or stopped by park services and told we have to turn back because we can't bring our guns with us.
Can you take a gun camping?
The answer is yes and here is why. Due to a federal law passed in 2009, it is legal to carry guns into any national park in the United States. This law took effect on a national level and allows firearms owners to bring guns into national parks but not federal buildings which are mark with signs on the parks' premises. This law allows anyone with a permit to own a firearm to carry it on the park and campgrounds. It even covers having guns outside of hunting season without having a hunting license.
So, we will be looking specifically at the laws and regulations for open and concealed carrying of guns on campsites and national parks, and other related areas. We will also cover the transporting of firearms while on the way to your camp.
Knowing your rights and the rules in place will keep your trip from turning into a nightmare. We will also be mentioning some resources to help you keep track of all this because we know it can be hard to keep every gun law straight all the time. We understand you want to be responsible and we hope this article helps.
Carrying a firearm in National Parks and Campsites.
When it comes to firearms and who can carry them, several levels of law go into effect, and all must be observed and respected. There are Federal laws put into place nationwide. State laws that change State by State must be adhered to even if you visit another state.
Local regulations are created by towns and cities or even counties that operate locally aside from the other two levels of law. Responsible firearms owners should be aware of all three levels of law anytime they decide to take their guns anywhere outside their house.
The federal law passed in 2009 allows guns to be at the parks on a federal level, but there is a caveat for state-level rules. National parks allow guns on the premises, but only as far as the State in which the park property falls allows.
This means for campers heading to a more extensive national park that carries over to different states, such as Yellowstone, which covers three states, need to make sure they know the laws of all the states they plan or may accidentally crossover.
Whether knowingly or unknowingly, once you have crossed state lines, you, the firearms owner, are now responsible for being in accordance with that new State's gun laws. Keeping track of the new rules may seem problematic, but it is legal; all it takes is research and a map.
Please be sure to do your research on the campgrounds and parks you will be going into, as some state laws can prohibit you from carrying guns into them. This list may be short, but it is essential to know.
For instance, Savannas Preserve State Park is a nature preserve that does not allow the carrying of any firearms on its premises. It is a state park, so even though the park is covered by federal law, the Preserve falls solely under the jurisdiction of the state government in terms of firearms regulations as stated in the Federal law.
This Preserve only allows law enforcement and conservation officers to carry guns, and hunting is neither permitted nor licensed on the Preserve grounds. So keep in mind the distinction between National and State Parks, and be sure to check the laws in place for each ahead of time to avoid any unfortunate situations once you arrive.
Another thing to be aware of when it comes to state laws is the guns you can bring with you. Some states may not allow you to bring that automatic handgun with you on that deer hunting trip you had planned.
Once you have reached the campgrounds, you will also be able to open carry your gun and keep it loaded as well. Some states, such as California, will declare your tent and campsite a place of temporary residence and allow you to keep your weapon with you and near the ammunition or even keep your gun loaded while at your camp.
For the most part, the Federal laws will cover campers who choose to bring guns like rifles for hunting. They will allow you to carry them open and keep them loaded, as stated above. As long as you have the proper permits for hunting, you will be fine, and park services will let you be.
However, when it comes to concealed carry permits, you need to do more research—individual states issue licenses for concealed carrying of a firearm. Some states do not recognize the permit from others, so even if you are only going a state over, you may want to check if the other State will reciprocate.
In many states, handguns are treated differently than guns used for hunting or sport.
Traveling with Firearms to Campgrounds.
If you are going camping with your guns, that means you are traveling with them; this is unavoidable and comes with its own set of laws. It is acceptable to have firearms at the permitted sites, as discussed above, but you also have to be mindful of how you travel with them to the campsites.
The way you store your guns while driving to where they are allowed to be stored. There are rules for all of this.
There are particular circumstances in the State of Florida you can open carry a firearm. These circumstances essentially cover instances where you are going from home to a place where you can use your gun. This means you are allowed to open carry your gun when going to or traveling back from a campsite, hunting, or fishing trip.
While you are permitted to open carry in these situations, you cannot make any stops along the way. Meaning you have to drive directly to your destination, and if you make a stop, it can lead to some unpleasant interactions, specifically with law enforcement. If you have a concealed carry permit and choose to do that, then you are fine. The issue mostly comes with open carry and the circumstances around that.
Please be sure to read the statute carefully.
Traveling Long Distances with Firearms
When it comes to taking your guns on longer trips outside of the State, there are other things to consider. In those circumstances, open carry should not be an option. It will only raise flags with law enforcement in other states and explaining circumstances and laws in that situation will take longer and become more complex.
In situations where you are leaving the State with your guns, be sure to have them locked away in a case and not easily accessible to you or anyone in the car while driving. Also, be sure to keep the ammunition in much the same way. Do not keep your gun or ammunition in the glove box.
The suggested area is in the trunk of your car. If you are bringing a trailer, that would be the best place to store your firearms. Be sure that you have all pertinent paperwork such as permits and such available to you and secure to make sure nothing can happen to them. There is also the issue of what different states will allow in terms of how to store certain kinds of guns and what is considered locked away safely or if it needs to be locked away entirely.
Take California, for example. They have no issue with someone of legal age and legally allowed to own a gun to transport it anywhere in the state or even leave the state with it. They are, however, very particular on how it is transported.
They specify that the gun must be locked in a container with a locking mechanism such as combination, key, or padlock on it. They allow a caveat to place the gun in the trunk of the car, but they also do specify a glove compartment does not count, even if it has a lock on it.
Further along this line of thought and still, with the example of California, they apply this same logic to assault weapons and .50 BMG rifles. However, rifles and shotguns that do not meet the state's assault weapons standards can be categorized as noncancelable weapons and do not need to be locked away as the handguns, or assault weapons must be.
So, your hunting rifle, for instance, can be in clear sight out in the open in your back seat but cause no problem, as long as the gun is unloaded.
It is these state-by-state differences that gun owners must make themselves aware of. Terms like "locked container" or "assault weapons" can vary and mean that the handgun you have locked in your trunk in one state is fine, but when you cross those state lines to reach your favorite deer hunting grounds, it instantly becomes something that can result in a fine.
Nationwide there is a standing law that permits the transport of firearms across state lines as long as the person does not stop, and they are taking the guns from one location where they are allowed to have the guns to another place where they are legally entitled to have the guns.
Even with this exception, the guns still need to be safely stored, unloaded, and separated from ammunition. Abiding by this law becomes a bit tricky for those traveling by car and need to stop for rest and refueling.
There is a bit of a complex situation regarding RVs and other recreational vehicles. Different states treat these vehicles in different ways. In one State, an RV can be seen as a home.
In other states, they are recognized as only vehicles.
There is a difference between how firearms are treated when they are stored in a house and a car, and then there is a third category where RVs have an entirely separate set of rules.
Resources for Gun owners
Keeping track of the gun laws across the country can be difficult. They change frequently. Just from one State to the other, it can change so much. We have already discussed how some States will not accept a concealed carry permit from another State. Luckily there are resources for gun owners to help them follow all of this.
One primary resource is the NRA website. On the main page is where you can look up the current gun laws. And on this page on their site, there is a map where you can select the State to look up the particular regulations and use drop-down menus to look up specific things like reciprocity across states for concealed carry permits.
Since this resource is online, it is most likely to stay updated with the most accurate information available. The site contains articles about the organization and other things related to guns and gun rights. However, there is no membership required to access the database on the gun laws across the country.
For those who like to have a hard copy of what to know about traveling with firearms, Traveler's Guide to the Firearm Laws of the Fifty States by J. Scott Kappas. The book is published every year, so it is updated with whatever changes are made between issues.
Having an actual book is excellent when you are out on the road or in nature where there is less reception or technology access. The book is compact and concise, so the book can easily store in a glove compartment or a backpack. In conjunction with the book, a website is a great resource to use when you have access to the internet.
The website, gunlawguide.com also has a listing of the changes between the issues so those interested can track some of the differences between problems. One of the biggest helps this book provides helpful information for RVers. The book includes essential and transparent information on the topic of gun storage and laws pertaining to firearms in RVs. Hence, it is just the thing for people who like to take to the open road often for their trips when they go camping or just journey across the country.
There are plenty of resources out there for gun owners to check on laws and keep up with regulations. There are websites and newsfeeds dedicated to this topic precisely. There are also forums and groups where discussion of gun laws helps keep people in the gun enthusiast community informed.
If you are ever unsure about something in regard to having your gun while camping or traveling, be sure to ask your local firearms or camping community or look it up online on a trusted and reputable site. Not everyone who answers a question and appears confident is correct, so make sure to double-check.
When it comes to camping and guns, you can never be too cautious. It is better to find out at home than find out once you have driven hours from home and run the chance of having to turn back or, worse, pay a fine.
My Final Thought
Camping is an excellent activity for any and everyone to enjoy. Whatever the reason you decide to head out into the woods, we hope you find it. We also hope that you remain responsible and well educated on all the laws and provisions that govern the National and State Parks.
Those above us have decided and voted on these laws to ensure that we all can enjoy nature. Gun laws are not lightly passed, and they are there to protect everyone's freedom. Please be sure to learn the regulations for firearms at any place you decide to camp, hunt, or fish at. It will make everything go much more smoothly.
Most importantly, remember if you have everything in order, then there is little that can happen to you. Be sure to have the paperwork or at least copies of the permits and such needed licenses with you when you go camping.
Please make sure they are accessible to you when you are traveling to your campsite and are stored someplace safe when you have gotten to your destination. You bring your guns to keep you safe so bring the proper documentation to support your firearms' security.
Knowing if you can bring your guns is essential for you too. This is just one piece of the puzzle, though.
For more information on firearms and camping, take a look at our other articles: "Best Guns to take Camping" and "Should I Bring a Gun Camping?" We hope these articles will help you make better-informed decisions in the future.
Well, that's all for now.
Do yourself a favor and take a kid camping, it will change your life!